The Comparison Trap

Do you compare yourself to others?  Yes, always?  No, never?  Possibly, a little bit?

Although it can often be a natural tendency to compare ourselves to others, it’s important to separate the action in doing so from who you are as a person.  The action of comparing yourself to someone else can be a subjective and projective reflection of yourself, and if you’re not mindful of this behavior, it can have damaging effects on your confidence, self-esteem, and self-image.

What follows are three themes to keep in mind when we begin to compare ourselves to others.

1)  You can always find someone who is “better” or “worse,” or someone who has “more” or “less:  So many of our perceptions are subjective and personal, and the way in which we view ourselves and others is usually formed through our own frame of reference.  Just because you personally might view a situation in a certain way does not mean that others do as well.  Your definition of “better” or “worse” is really your own, and others’ perspectives will likely differ from yours.  Additionally, the conceptualization of how you see yourself and your life, as compared to someone else’s, can be perceived as “better” in certain regards, or “worse” in others, both subjective viewpoints..  You may encounter someone who has “more” money than you.  You may encounter someone who has “less” living space than you do.  Just because you have more or less of something, does not equate to your being better or worse as a person.  Hence, the quotation marks!

 2)  Things aren’t always as they seem:  We will never know the full story of what is truly going on behind closed doors in other people’s lives.  Don’t automatically assume that just because you observe certain things as being truths on the surface, that they are as you perceive them. For example, someone may appear as if they are happy and living a “perfect” life, but perhaps this person is struggling with self-esteem issues, substance abuse, grief, or depression.  You can’t know these things simply on the surface level, or from your outside perspective.  It’s important to remember that there are layers to all of us that we cannot see at all times, but they’re surely there, underneath the surface.  Side note: there is also no such thing as universal “perfection.”  What is deemed “perfect” in your eyes may not be judged the same by someone else!

 3)  Feelings of insecurity:   When we find ourselves comparing ourselves to others in a heightened fashion, this can often be indicative of deeper issues related to our own insecurities.  If you notice you are picking at others, and at yourself, about levels of intelligence, achievements in the career arena, physical appearance, or other qualities, take a moment to reflect upon why.  Is it because of your own internal struggles in these areas, or is it based upon external factors?  Furthermore, if you notice you are harshly judging others for having things that you actually want for yourself, take note that this can be a negative pattern in your relationships, and can even be damaging to your reputation.  For example, if you believe you deserve a promotion, but your colleague got one instead of you, it is okay to feel slighted and a bit let down.  That’s understandable.  However, if you find yourself nitpicking and criticizing the individual for achieving recognition for their strengths, or you notice you’re putting them down and/or gossiping behind their back, this can be representative of a bigger issue within yourself that should be explored carefully.

Of course, we cannot help but compare ourselves to others from time-to-time.  But when we engage in this sort of reflective process, we must not permit comparison to dictate our lives, or allow it to cause overly negative expressions and behaviors that result in toxicity. Remember:  awareness, insight, and management are crucial!


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